Saddle Sores

by | Aug 25, 2020 | Blog

This article is not for the faint at heart but knowledge is power. Don’t be like me. How many people have had a saddle sore?  Well I just had the worse experience ever with saddle sores. I have been seriously cycling for about three years when I started my multi-sport journey. I can attest that saddle sores are one of the most frustrating and uncomfortable ailments you can develop as a cyclist. They happen to all riders although some may not share as they happen in an intimate area of the body.  


When I made my first appointment with a dermatologist and said I had saddle sores. The receptionist had no clue what I was talking about. She did make my appointment though. A fellow triathlete referred me so I knew the physician actually had experience treating them. The doctor explained that saddle sores can be divided into two main types: those caused solely due to excessive friction. The friction causes extensive chaffing and then there those that result from infected hair follicles.

The most simple type of saddle sore is one that’s caused by abrasion of the skin due to excess friction. This can be caused by improper fit, or the wrong saddle. Abrasion saddle sores initially present as raw marks on the skin. If they develop further the skin can break or they can cause a crater-like in appearance.

Infected hair follicles result also are causes by excessive friction. Our skin normally has staph on it. Staph is a bacteria that lives in the skin. The excessive friction around a hair follicle causes breaks in the skin and this can cause an infection. This infection cause results in a small cyst that looks like a pimple to an large abscess that needs an formal incision in order to drain the area. 


Experiment with different saddles. Find what best for you. I had to try two or three to get the best fit. It was especially difficult on my Triathlon bike. Get a bike fit by a professional.  My bit fitter actually help me decide on the best saddle for me.  Get out of your kit as soon as possible, and shower as soon as your can. If this is not possible baby wipes are a good option until you can get to a shower.  Wear good cycling shorts. This is really important with high mileage rides.  Don’t wear underwear under your cycling shorts. Avoid increasing mileage too soon.  Use chamois cream. I use them on all rides. Some people save for longer rides.  Reapply if possible every 3-4 hours.

Force yourself off of the saddle every 30 minutes or so. This is especially important on trainer rides as you are more stationary and it causes more pressure. One of the reason I love hills is while I am coasting on the descent I rest my bottom off of the saddle. There is not a consensus on shaving and waxing. Some say avoid it as it irritates the hair follicles and allow bacteria in those follicle. Also shaving and waxing can cause ingrown hairs. There is also the theory that hair provide a buffer to absorb some of the friction that would be transferred to the skin.  Some like me can’t go free- meaning can’t grow free. I believe the hair removal methods that causes the least irritation are laser or electrolysis. As Laser is long lasting removal, and electrolysis is permeant removal. 


If you develop an abrasion, a cyst treat it. I use A&D ointment. My dermatologist also recommended acne medication for pimple sized sore without open skin. Some use Noxzema, tea tree oil, etc. I usually visit my dermatologist and get a cortisone injection and this resolves it. I also use Lidoderm gel to numb the area when I can’t truly rest as I did before my IronMan race last year.  The best advice is to get some rest if you can.  Make sure you thoroughly clean the area. Sitz bathes and warm compresses help with the pain. If sores are severe and don’t get better don’t be like me stop cycling and go see someone before you develop an abscess and need an incision for it to clear up as the pain is unbearable. 

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